Top Ten… Lacklustre follow-ups

jennifersbodyRvR is delighted to have guest writer Gavin Burke, presenter of Phantom 105.2’s brilliant Cinerama show, to take us through some famous filmmakers’ eagerly anticipated second movies that just couldn’t live up to their predecessors.

Brilliant Debuts and Lacklustre Follow-ups

By Gavin Burke from Cinerama at Phantom 105.2, Dublin’s Indie Rock


Diablo Cody won an Oscar for Best Screenplay with her debut script Juno two years ago, so we (and when I say ‘we’ I mean ‘me’) were waiting with breath that is baited for her follow-up. When I heard it was to be a teen comedy-horror my shoulders slumped – the sub-genre was already running out of steam – but there was still hope if Cody could bring her offbeam dialogue that made Juno a delight. Then it was announced that Megan Fox would star, she of the perfect body and perpetually parted lips that seemed adept at running away from explosions and falling buildings in both Transformers. These weren’t roles that could suggest she could act so maybe we’d find out in Jennifer’s Body.

We didn’t. Fox plays the titular character, the school bike, who is transformed into a demon that feasts on teenage boys to stay pretty. All Fox had to do is be sexy, which she undoubtedly can. But all eyes were on Cody’s script and that was found wanting too: Cody strained for originality (‘extra salty’ apparently means ‘good-looking’; a ‘wetty’ is what happens to girls when… you get the idea. I can’t see these catching on).

Is it the weight of expectation? If something hits in Hollywood, it hits BIG. Producers scramble like rats for whatever else the new hottest thing in town has in the drawer, regardless if the new talk of the town is ready or not. Just ask Candy Flip.

Could it be a case of ‘You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t’? If you repeat the formula that made the first one a success, you’re shot down for being a one-trick pony (Rednex followed up Cotton Eye Joe with Old Pop In An Oak – basically the same tune with different lyrics). If you try something totally different, you’re shot down for not sticking with what you know (again, just ask Rednex, who followed up Old Pop In An Oak with Wish You Were Here – a ballad! A can-you-believe-it ballad!).

So what about other follow-ups that failed to live up to a debut’s promise?

10. Orson Welles – from Citizen Kane to… The Magnificent Ambersons


Okay, so The Magnificent Ambersons is a good show, but how do you follow up the greatest film ever made?

9. Charles Laughton – from The Night of the Hunter to… nothing

The Oscar-winning actor stepped behind the camera for 1955’s The Night of the Hunter. It was panned by critics and audiences stayed away. Laughton never directed again.  The Night of the Hunter is now considered one of the best films ever made.

8. Dito Montiel – from A Guide To Recognising Your Saints to… Fighting


Writing from the heart and basing …Saints on his own childhood, Montiel had a certain early Scorsese vibe about him with his impressive debut that convinced the world that Channing Tatum could act. Then Montiel ruins everything by reminding us that Tatum can’t act with a by-the-numbers street Rocky.

7. Jared Hess – from Napoleon Dynamite to… Nacho Libre

The low-budget cult movie Napoleon Dynamite crossed over to the mainstream when middle-aged women in Tesco were spotted wearing ‘Vote For Pedro’ T-shirts. Hess then moved south to Mexico and a Jack Black ‘comedy’ about wrestlers and nuns. Nah.

6. Zach Helm – from Stranger Than Fiction to… Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

Helm’s delightful and weird rom-com Stranger Than Fiction filled the boots of a missing Charlie Kaufman with a kids movie that was a love letter to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Nobody cared.

5. Harmony Korine – from Kids to… Gummo and oblivion

He was odd, that Harmony. After penning the bleaker-than-bleak Kids for Larry Clark, Korine followed it up by writing and directing the odder-than-odd Gummo. Nobody saw it.

4. John Singleton – from Boyz In Da Hood to… Poetic Justice


‘It’s either they don’t know, don’t show or don’t care about what’s going in the ‘hood.’ 24-year-old director Singleton knew and showed what was going on in the ‘hoods of 1991’s LA but then showed he didn’t care: romantic drama Poetic Justice was his next shot. Nobody saw it.

3. Charlie Kaufman – from Being John Malkovich to… Human Nature

Without the doubt the most original Hollywood writer of his generation delivered without doubt the most original film Hollywood has produced in an eon, Kaufman then turned up with a too-wacky-for-it’s-own-good Human Nature. Having Patricia Arquette and Rhys Ifans star didn’t help matters.

2. Matthieu Kassovtiz – from La Haine to… Assassins

From a socially conscious film that had something to say about French racial tensions and created such a storm that then president Mitterrand ordered his cabinet to watch it, Kassovitz then made a crime drama about hitmen. The decision suggests that the writer-director was/is a tourist.

1. Dennis Hopper – from Easy Rider to… The Last Movie


From a groundbreaking film that signalled the death of the hippy dream long before anyone knew the game was up, Hopper then moves kit and caboodle to South America (who in their right mind let Hopper do that?) to shoot a movie about shooting a movie in Peru. Nobody saw it.


For more movie chat from Gavin and Cinerama, click HERE.



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38 Responses to “Top Ten… Lacklustre follow-ups”

  1. really good, thoughtful list Gav, welcome to the RvR fold
    a few who might make my list, this required a lot of thought and fact-checking:
    i think Kevin Costner is a contender – Dances With Wolves is a thoughtful film which he backed up by directing The Postman. he also did a bit of directing on Waterworld in between, after he and Kevin Reynolds fell out i think, so he should not escape punishment. although Waterworld is defo not as bad as people say it is.
    special mention to Mario van Peebles, who directed the super New Jack City and followed it up with Posse, the title of which was matched by the quality of its stars, Stephen Baldwin and Billy Zane
    listen to your friend Billy Zane, hes a cool dude
    no. hes not.

  2. haha! u listened to my request in your last post for more beautiful lukin people in your pictures. dont come much beautifuler than Megan Fox. thanks ‘rvr’, whats the article about anyway?

  3. Paul the Ball Says:

    pretty good list Gaverama – are you an X Factor fan? is that why Gummo got a mention?

  4. Wow,

    That is some exhaustive list.

    Couple more I could think of… Mickey Rourke prior to The Wrestler had a 20-year tour in the wilderness. From Angel Heart to nothing in the intervening period

    And Winona Ryder was gonna be the next big thing before she got a bit stealy.

  5. Steven Harris Says:

    Magorium is fine. But yes. Stranger than Fiction is better.

  6. Another one might be Martin Landau, who followed up a fine debut in North By Northwest with various lots of crap over the years including Space 1999, currently a mainstay on the best channel in the UK, ITV 4.

    Then he came back to win an Oscar for Ed Wood in the 1990s.

  7. I really liked Juno, but you couldn’t drag me to the cinmea to see Jennifer;s Body.

  8. I was thinking of the cute little kid from Jerry Maguire (no, not Tom Cruise) – Jonathan Lipnicki, but then i IMDbd him and found that he had done some good stuff since talking about how much the human head weighed.
    He’s in Stuart Little, three episodes of Dawson’s Creek and, best of all, one episode of Monk.
    I think im gonna start referring to him as ‘Monk star Jonathan Lipnicki’
    Monk is great.

  9. Hopper has always impressed me (and creeped the hell out of me, especially in Blue Velvet.

    I would add Clint Eastwood to your list. Classic, for decades.

    More women, my friend? Penelope Cruz has that “it” factor, as do many others. Julie Delpy, for her variety of writing, producing, and acting roles – even if she seems (at times) a 30-something French Woody Allen…

    As for Ms. Fox, would that she’d lay off the tattoos already…

  10. Lester Square Says:

    Woody Bloody Allen!!

    Talking of lacklustre follow-ups, do you think he will ever manage a decent film again?

    Last one was Hannah and Her Sisters, back in the 1980s. How long is he going to be allowed to get away with it?

  11. Paul the Ball Says:

    seriously, do you need to see anything of Allen’s other than Annie Hall?

  12. Yes, welcome on board Gav, nice to finally have a partner who knows what he’s talking aboot.
    However, have you ever considered that maybe you’re just too demanding?
    But while were on the subject….Michael Bay!
    He finally makes a shock decent film in Transformers, and then ruins my new found respect for him by vomiting up Revenge of the Fallen.

  13. Lester Square Says:

    Well, I don’t need to Paul, that’s true.

    Annie Hall, was it all that? Though did like the scene when he sneezed into the cocaine (if that was that film).

    Would say my faves of his are The Sleeper and Everything You Need To Know About Sex….

  14. I like you blog! Is very cool, and is remarkable that I don’t have subject!

  15. Michael Bay, Ross? He’s a propagandist, not a film maker. Although Transformers II was bereft of a fluttering American flags.

    I can’t stand him. I can’t stand his movies. But if you watch Pearl Harbour as a parody it’s the funniest film ever.

  16. Enjoyed but wasn’t as enamored of the very talented Diablo Cody as the rest of the world. She tries very hard to be cool – staying it is a trick. H’wood is corporate radio and Wall St (and I don’t mean the Oliver Stone classic!) rolled into one: find a successful formula, copy/paste until all the juice is gone.

  17. As Ross McD says above, yes Gav, it is nice to finally have a partner who knows what’s he’s talking about.
    Michael Bay’s first movie was the very bad Bad Boys, and the nicest thing I can say about it is that it was better than Bad Boys 2. why didnt they just call the sequel Worse Boys?

  18. How about a lackluster second half of a career? Spielberg still makes entertaining films, but they’re not like the masterpieces he used to create.

  19. really good list Cinerama, nice to get some value for money with a Top Ten instead of the usual paltry Top Fives dished out on this site.
    think tshendrik is on to something though with lacklustre second halves of careers
    can i be the first to nominate Tim Burton?

  20. I don’t think the Citizen Kane to The Magnificent Ambersons is a particularly fair one because any film history buff will know the studios basically re-edited the film and burned all the footage they cut, destroying Welles vision of the film.

  21. this is a great list

  22. To be fair to ‘Jennifer’s Body’, my friends and I have said ‘wetty’ for years.

  23. I agree with the portrayal of ‘Jennifer’s Body.’

  24. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, wasn’t as good as Stranger Than Fiction. Cause although Stranger Than Fiction was a little strange, it still felt realistic, whereas Magorium’s , was a little too out of this world. Good stuff!

  25. great list. I would add clint eastwood as well..Get off my lawnn

  26. Good list, but as others have noted, there will be a lot of amendments to this one.

    I nominate Christopher McQuarrie. From writing Usual Suspects, one of the better movies of the 90’s, he moved on to The Way of the Gun. Way of the Gun wasn’t horrible, but as a followup to Usual, it was profoundly disappointing.

  27. A pretty comprehensive list. And largely true.

  28. My vote has to go to Richard Kelly. Not only did he follow the brilliant Donnie Darko up with the bizarre mess that was Southland Tales, but look what he did in his spare time between the films. He wrote a screenplay for Domino and re-cut Donnie Darko creating what is probably the only directors cut that is noticeably inferior to the theatrical cut.

    By the way Jenifer’s Body is actually quite good!

  29. nice list indeed. i can imagine how much work you’ve done for making it. of course, the internet is really helpful in such cases but there is often such a mess there! respect for your post! really nice!

  30. To fandangogroovers and Ahi

    Great suggestions! I can’t believe I forgot Donnie Darko/Southland Tales and Usual Suspects/Way of the Gun/Apt Pupil – both lacklustre follow ups for director and writer.

    And James Blake Ewing, that’s a good point re Welles, but we can only judge what’s on screen and not what might have been.

  31. Hey! Way to get on the front page, guys! WOOHOO!

    Totally agree about Welles and Hess, they really screwed the pooch on those ones. I cannot believe memoirsofaswine up there just badmouthed Clint and Gran Torino though. WTF is that about?

  32. Now now Aidan, everyones entitled to their opinion.
    Maybe you guys should have a Mexican standoff? I’ll be The Good, and referee. You can divide up the other roles between you.

  33. mcarteratthemovies Says:

    115,000,000 points for referring to Megan Fox as “the school bike.” That’s wordsmithing at its best right there.

    I’m not sure I agree about “Jennifer’s Body,” though. Sure, it ain’t exactly “Juno,” but I found it to be totally enjoyable nonsense. Plus, Amanda Seyfried is 39 kinds of talented, and she really gave a winning performance that showed her range — from timidity to fear to anger to menace. It was a tour-de-force.

    Ugh. Tour-de-force? I HATE that cliche. (Shoots self in foot, thus completing this shameless “Blazing Saddles” reference)

  34. The Magnificent Amerbsons is every bit as ambitious, well-acted, well-directed and, if anything, better scripted than Kane. It just had the rotten luck of being carelessly hacked by people who didn’t understand how good it was. But the first two acts (largely intact) can go toe to toe with anything in Kane. I also don’t think it’s fair to blame Charles Laughton for people not getting NotH and preventing him from making another film before he died. Otherwise, I agree wholly with the remaining eight choices.

    I’m glad that Richard Kelly didn’t make the cut, though. The point of the list was not “follow-ups that went from bad to worse.” I love Donnie Darko’s director’s cut, though solely because it reveals that all the plaudits of Kelly’s philosophical musings and existential mystery were simply the result of someone’s editing. When you see what he wanted DD is a straightforward time movie with horrifically annoying distractions.

  35. Lets go back to the start, Jenifer’s Body was directed by Karyn Kusama. Her first film, Girlfight was really good. Her second was Æon Flux need I say more! The star of Girlfight was Michelle Rodriguez she was brilliant in her début role. Her second film was The Fast and the Furious!

  36. double points Fandango, good work

  37. Triple points for getting that ‘Æ’ character in, how did you do that?
    That’s more impressive that Charlize Theron doing the splits

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